This month we see INK release on Nintendo Switch adding to the ever-growing array of Nindies available in the eshop. Originally released in 2015 on Steam it has also been ported over to the PlayStation 4.
INK sets itself out as a fast-paced action, puzzle platformer with a difference, every level is initially invisible which is quite a daunting concept. Players take control of a square-shaped character, reminiscent in style of Thomas was Alone, who must splatter brightly coloured paint around each level before it can be seen. This is a really different take on the genre and the game mechanic works by hitting the jump for a second time causing a paint explosion. The fallout then hits previously hidden areas making them visible and giving a view on the escape route. INK is the world’s first splatformer… if you like. Although this is the core mechanic there are different ways in which you can reveal a level, as mentioned the key is the double jump but wall sliding or squishing an enemy additionally creates splashes and splodges. Even failing in this game is useful because when your character dies, and I did a number of times, you explode in a shower of colour again helping to paint the surrounding area. It certainly is a helpful technique in getting a greater field of view as the paint remains on each attempt, some levels I was that bad at it was like my brain purposely wanted me to kill myself in a bid to reveal the way.
INK is set over a whopping 75 carefully crafted levels, each increasing in difficulty as you make progress. As always, the first few are pretty easy-going and give on-screen prompts to outline what can and can’t be achieved. The game makes an ideal challenge for our speedrunners out there as each time you play it is recording how long a level took you and then posts the best time upon replaying. From the menu, you can decide if the timer is visible or not depending on whether that matters to you. Later levels begin to introduce enemies that can be splatted, missiles for dodging and even mega challenging boss fights. The game also has 20 deviously hidden coins to find and collect, this is a nice little bonus and adds to its replay value. I didn’t manage to collect all of the coins on my first play but I’m eager as ever to get back in. The soundtrack is ambient and atmospheric featuring original work by Vincent Rubinetti.
INK works extremely well on the Nintendo Switch and controls are tight, giving the needed amount of precision to make mastering every move and jump a reality. It’s nice to see that the team behind this latest version have taken time to think about what the hardware can bring to the table by adding a 2-player local co-op mode supporting split Joy-Con play.
I really got into INK but found it best played in short bursts as getting stuck on a level became super frustrating at times. I often knew what was required but had to keep practising to hit that perfectly timed jump sequence. The game mechanic and minimal art style can organically produce some pretty sights which will no doubt offer a variation on how each player views the game. My main gripe would be with the inability to record video as some of my greatest escapes and fails will never be shared, unless it can be added via an update… please! Overall INK is an enjoyable experience and comes highly recommended.
Beard Score: 8/10
Genre: Action, Puzzle, Platformer
Release: 19/06/2018 (Switch)
Format: Steam, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch